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Bayan v.

Zamora
October 10, 2000
Petitions for certiorari and prohibition
Main Issue: Validity of the Visiting Forces Agreement
FACTS:
1.) March 14, 1947: Military Bases Agreement: the use of installations in the Philippine territory by US military
personnel
2.) August 30, 1951: Mutual Defense Treaty: parties agreed to respond to any external armed attack on their
territory, armed forces, public vessels, and aircraft
3.) In view of the impending expiration of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement in 1991, the PH and US negotiated for
a possible extension of the military bases agreement. This proposal was supposedly the RP-US Treaty of
Friendship, Cooperation and Security which would extend the presence of US military bases in the Philippines.
However, the Senate rejected this.
4.) Expiration of the RP-US military bases agreement military exercises were held in abeyance.
5.) Notwithstanding, the defense and security relationship between the Philippines and the United States continued
pursuant to the Mutual Defense Treaty.
6.) July 18, 1997: exchange of notes between the Philippines and the US on the:
a. complementing strategic interests if the United States and the Philippines in the Asia Pacific Region
b. Possible elements of the VFA
7.) Negotiations consolidated draft final series of conferences and negotiations culmination in Manila on Jan.
12 and 13, 1998
8.) FVR approved the VFA which was respectively signed by the Secretary Siazon and the US Ambassador Thomas
Hubbard on February 10, 1998
9.) October 5, 1998: Pres. Estrada, through the Secretary of Foreign affairs, ratified the VFA. (Instrument of
Ratification)
10.)The Instrument was then transmitted to the Senate and was approved by 2/3 vote of its members. (Senate
Resolution No. 18)
11.)VFA officially entered into force on June 1, 1999.
Visiting Forces Agreement
- Consists of a Preamble and 9 Articles
- Provides for the mechanism for regulating the circumstances and conditions under which the US Armed Forces
and defense personnel may be present in the Philippines
ISSUES:
(1) WON the petitioners have legal standing as concerned citizens, taxpayers, or legislators to question the
constitutionality of the VFA?
a. as concerned citizens- NO.
b. as taxpayers- NO.
c. as legislators- NO.
d. IBP- NO. It lacks legal capacity in the absence of a board resolution from its Board of Governors.
Notwithstanding, in view of the paramount importance and the constitutional significance of the issues raised in the
petitions, this Court, in the exercise of its sound discretion, brushes aside the procedural barrier and takes cognizance of
the petitions.
(2) Is the VFA governed by the provisions of Article VII, Sec. 21 or Article XVIII, Sec. 25 of the Constitution?
Sec. 25, Article XVIII applies to the VFA

Petitioners: Sec. 25 of Article XVIII: VFA has its subject the presence of military troops in the Philippines
Respondents: Sec. 21 of Article VII : VFA is not a basing agreement but merely involves temporary visits of United
States personnel engages in joint military exercises
Court:
Sec. 25 of Article XVIII
After the expiration in 1991 of the Agreement between
the Republic of the Philippines and the United States
of America concerning Military Bases, foreign military
bases, troops, or facilities shall not be allowed in the
Philippines except under a treaty duly concurred by the
Senate and when the Congress so requires, ratified by
a majority of the votes cast by the people in a national
referendum held for that purpose, and recognized as a
treaty by the other contracting State.
Specifically applies to treaties involving the presence
of foreign military bases, troops, and facilities in the
Philippines.
Requisites:
(1) It must be a Treaty duly concurred in by the
Senate
(2) recognized as such by other contracting state.
(3) ratified by a majority of the votes cast in a national
referendum held for that purpose if so required by
the Congress

Sec. 21 of Article VII


No treaty shall be valid and effective unless concurred
in by at least two-thirds of all the Members of the
Senate.

General rule on treaties and international agreements

Requisite: concurrence of at least 2/3 of all the


Members of the Senate to make the subject treaty or
international agreement valid and binding

In the present case


VFA is an agreement that defines the treatment of US troops and personnel visiting the Philippines.
Undoubtedly, Sec. 25, Article XVIII applies to the VFA. (Statutory construction: Special provision or law
prevails over a general one.
Sec. 21, Article VII only applies to the determination of the number of votes required to obtain the valid
concurrence of the Senate.
Responses of the Court to other arguments made by the petitioners:
1. To argue that Sec. 21, Article VII applies because there is no permanent placing of structure for the
establishment of a base is erroneous.
Why? The Constitution does not make a distinction between the transient and permanent
2. To argue that Sec. 25, Article XVIII is not controlling simply because there will be no foreign military bases
but merely foreign troops and facilities is also erroneous.
Why? The proscription covers foreign military bases, troops, or facilities. The clause does not refere to the set
collectively but treats them as separate and independent subjects.

(3) WON VFA met the requirements of Sec. 25, Article XVIII YES.
- There is no dispute as to the presence of the first two requisitesthat it is a treaty and that is duly concurred in by
the Senate

o
o

Concurrence of the Senate through Resolution No. 18


Matter of voting: two-thirds of all the members of the Senate is clearly required so that the concurrence
contemplated by law may be validly obtained and deemed present. Sec. 25, Article XVIII must not be
treated in isolation to Sec. 21, Article VII
concurrence in Sec. 25, Article XVIIII means that there has to be a vote of at least 2/3 of all the
Members of the Senate

RE: Recognition of the other state


Petitioners contend that recognized as a treaty by the other state means that the US Senate must also ratify the
VFA pursuant to its own constitutional process and that it should not be merely an executive agreement by the
United States.
Court: The phrase recognized as a treaty means that the other contracting party accepts or acknowledges the
agreement as a treaty.
Why?
1. Words in the Constitution are to be given their ordinary meaning except where technical terms are employed
in which case the significance thus attached to them prevails
2. It is inconsequential whether the US treats the VFA only as an executive agreement because, under
international law, an executive agreement is as binding as a treaty. AS long as VFA possesses the elements
of an agreement under international law, the said agreement is to be taken equally as a treaty.
Treaty as defined by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
an international instrument concluded between States in written form and governed by international law, whether
embodied in a single instrument or in two or more related instruments, and whatever its particular designation.
In international law, there is no difference between treaties and executive agreements. They are both equally binding
obligations upon nations.
For as long as the United States accepts or acknowledges the VFA as a treaty and bids itself further to comply with its
obligations under the treaty, there is indeed marked compliance with the mandate of the Constitution.
Also, the ratification by the President and the concurrence made by the Senate is a clear and unequivocal expression of
our nations consent.
Ratification
- generally held to be an executive act undertaken by the head of state or of government, as the case may be,
through which the formal acceptance of a treaty is proclaimed.
- In our jurisdiction, the POWER TO RATIFY is vested in the President and not, as commonly, believed in the
legislature. The role of the Senate is limited only to giving or withholding its consent, or concurrence, to the
ratification.
Ratification of the VFA
- equivalent to final acceptance and with the exchange of notes between the two countries, it now becomes
obligatory and incumbent on our part, under the principles of international law, to be bound by the terms of the
agreement.
International Obligation of the State
- international obligations delves upon the state and not upon any branch, institution, or individual member of its
government
- we cannot readily plead the Constitution as a convenient excuse for non-compliance with our obligations, duties
and obligations and responsibilities under international law
- Article 13, Declaration of Rights and Duties of States adopted by the International Law Commission in 1919:
Every state has the duty to carry out in food faith its obligations arising from treaties and other sources of

international law, and it may not invoke provisions in its constitution or its law as an excuse for failure to perform its
duty
Principle of pacta sunt servanda: Every treaty in force is binding upon the parties to it and must be performed by
them in good faith( Article 26 of the Convention)

(4) WON the President committed grave abuse of discretion NO.


President is the sole organ and authority in the external affairs of the country.
Into the field of negotiation, the Senate cannot intrude and the Congress is powerless to invade it.
Consequently, the acts or judgment of the President involving the VFAspecifically the acts of ratification and entering
into a treaty and those necessary or incidental to the exercise of such principal actsquarely fall within the sphere of his
constitutional power.
Treaty concurring power of the Senate system of check and balance provided by the Constitution

DISSENTING OPINION, Justice Puno


Applicability of Article XVIII, Sec. 25 to VFA
- Respondents contemplate that Article XVIII, Sec. 25 does not apply to the VFA because VFA only involves
temporary visits of the US military personnel. According to respondents, Article XVIII, Sec. 25 only applies to
permanent The VFA does not provide for a specific limited period of effectivityopen-ended term
Article IX this agreement shall remain in force until the expiration of 180 days from the date on which either party
gives the other party notice in writing that it desires to terminate the agreement
Sec. 25, Article XVIII of the Constitution
-To determine compliance of the VFA with the requirements of the Constitution, it is necessary to ascertain the intent of the
framers of the Constitution as well the will of the people who ratified the Constitution.
1947 RP-US Military Bases Agreement was ratified by the Philippine Senate but not by the US Senate
asymmetry in the legal treatment, a slur to our sovereignty.
To correct this historical aberration, Sec. 25, Article XVIII of the Constitution requires that the treaty
allowing the presence of foreign military bases, troops, and facilities should also be recognized as a treaty
by the other contracting party
In the United States, a treaty is only one of the four types of international agreements
1. Article II treaties
2. Executive agreements pursuant to a treaty
3. Congressional executive agreements
4. Sole executive agreements
There has been an upsurge in the use of executive agreements as a foreign policy instrument of the US in
the post WWII
Executive agreements have three types:

1. Treaty authorized executive agreements


2. Congressional-executive agreements
3. Presidential or sole executive agreements
VFA falls under the category of the presidential or sole executive agreement.
Justice Puno differentiated sole executive agreement from a treaty based on the following levels:
1. state law
2. acts of Congress
3. US Constitution
While treaties and sole executive agreements have the same legal effect on state law (treaties are supreme over state law)
and are in equal footing under the US Constitution as they are subject to the same limitations, sole executive agreements
pale in comparison to the treaties when pitied against prior inconsistent acts of Congress.
- A treaty may supersede an act of Congress and an Act of Congress may supersede a treaty
- Unlike treaties, sole executive agreements cannot prevail over prior inconsistent federal legislation
Conclusion:

According to Justice Puno, the Court will be standing on unstable ground if it places a sole executive Agreement
like the VFA on the same constitutional plateau as a treaty.
A treaty has a greater dignity than an executive agreement because its constitutional effectiveness is beyond
doubt, because a treaty will commit the Senate and the people of the United States and make its subsequent
abrogation or violation less likely.
This Court must strike a blow for the sovereignty of our country by drawing a bright line between the dignity and
status of a treaty in contrast with a sole executive agreement.